So, this is my last post. I think I feel a tear coming to my eye…Honestly though, I think I am ready to move on from writing these. I’ve mentioned how I have thought long and hard about how I want to end these posts, and I’ve pined over the final message that I want to give for those that have read my blog. Rather than plan this out obsessively as I usually do, I think I will go with a different approach. I’m just going to write. And I hope that as I write, my honest thoughts and feelings are expressed. I hope this doesn’t go from J.K. Rowling to Stephenie Meyer quality as a result, but hey, Twilight was pretty popular…
To start, I should probably include a summary of my blog in order to reiterate where I’ve gone with these posts. I began with an introduction about what I hoped to achieve by writing these. I think I will include more information on whether my hoped-for goals were reached later in the post. In my second article, I discussed my own history in the church with the important aspect being I was a complete believer. I had spiritual experiences. I believed everything and did everything I was asked to. In post three I described where my doubts began, including that I did not feel recharged or spiritually uplifted by attending church, nor did I feel the promised joy by attending. I continue by giving a definition of what information actually fits the term “Anti-Mormon,” with one important point being that if information is true, it can no longer be deemed anti-Mormon. And in my fifth post I discuss my process of researching the church, including where I got my information as well as how it felt to go through a faith crisis.
My next three posts were what I call my disclaimer posts. My sixth, seventh, and eighth entries were the specific problematic issues that I learned about during my research. I dubbed them my disclaimer posts because I placed large warnings before each of them so believing members of the LDS church would not stumble into them by accident or without fully knowing what they were getting into. In the church we are taught not to research information that is not given by “reliable sources,” AKA the church, out of fear we may lose our faith. In the first two of these posts I include information that the church acknowledges on its own website in its Gospel Topics Essays. In the last of these three posts, I included information that is not acknowledged by the church yet is very problematic to its truth claims. In my ninth post I discuss how devastating it was to discover these issues and to conclude that they were not compatible with the church being God’s one and only true church on the earth. I also wrote about my stages of grief and loss. I then copy and pasted (don’t judge me, lol) the letter I wrote to my family and close friends letting them know about my disbelief. I discuss how relationships were affected by my loss of belief and move on to explain what believing members can do to support those that lose their faith or stop attending church. This twelfth post was not read as much as I had hoped, as I believe it is one of the most important posts I have shared. In my 13th post, I discussed how members often must change what and how they believe when they know the issues within the church, with the end result being that their faith is very different than that which is taught over the pulpit. I also included positive aspects of the church that I appreciated being a part of my life.
In my last several posts I had three friends write articles, most of whom have either stopped believing the truth claims of the church or have stopped attending completely. Kate discussed how it felt for her to lose her faith and as a result lose her faith community. Ryan, a currently attending non-believer, discussed his journey to disbelief as well as hoped for change within the church. Scott wrote directly to those that have left or no longer believe and offered suggestions for how we can maintain relationships with our family and friends that continue to believe in the church. These guest posts were some of the most read posts of my entire blog. I really appreciated the vulnerability Kate, Ryan, and Scott showed in writing these as their different perspectives were insightful and frankly amazing. In the midst of these, in post 16, I include what I believe is harmful within the church. Whether you believe in the LDS church or not, it is my opinion that it is EXTREMELY important to acknowledge these specific issues and for each and every attending member of the church to make individual and informed decisions about these harmful aspects of the church.
These three friends may not be the last to write for this blog, as I may also have up to four others contribute at some point. Whether or not any come before I complete this final personal article, I’m not sure. These final guest posts will be from individuals with a spectrum of belief, from a non-believer, to a nuanced believer, to a mainstream believer. I hoped to offer several different perspectives, including from those that believe and attend church, in order to have some balance in viewpoints. Some members that know all of the issues find a way to continue believing, though it is almost always accompanied by a change in belief one way or another. But in the end, these more nuanced perspectives didn’t work for me as I could not make myself believe again after gaining the knowledge I did. But either way, this post is my last as I have said essentially all I have wanted to say.
But on to the question of whether I achieved what I wanted to by writing these posts. There were several goals I had when I set out to write this blog, which I listed in my very first article:
1. To Receive Support: Whether it was after my initial post on Facebook on August 5th, 2018, or the entirety of my blog which I started February 23rd, 2019, I have found support by certain individuals. The vast majority of family and friends responded positively. I have noted that many members of the church that I am close with have not shunned me but have allowed our relationships to remain very similar to what they were before these events, even though we never talk about where I am in my faith journey. Several members have reached out to me and we have had very meaningful conversations that I believe were amazing. I hope that those that have met with me felt the same. I want to publicly say that these efforts are greatly appreciated. A couple who I was not close with previously have reached out as a result of my posts and have started very meaningful friendships. You know who you are and it is extremely valued.
However, I had hoped for a bit more support for my wife and myself through my “Dark Night of the Soul.” I had hoped for more texts, more calls, more contact. But I have come to realize that my expectations may have been unrealistic. I appreciate the positive responses that I have seen from friends and family, and I have learned to focus on this rather than what was not given.
2. A Way to Process my Pain: This goal was definitely successful. I have noted marked improvements in my own peace and contentment with my journey and with my life. I have attended church on occasion and I no longer feel the same anger that I did when hearing messages that I knew were inaccurate or that I did not agree with. By being open with my path, I have externalized much of the negative feelings I had roiling inside me. While I cannot say that I have completely healed through this process, I am much farther along than I was six months ago.
3. Understanding: This point is a mixed bag for me. For those that have read my blog in its entirety, and especially those that have taken the time to talk to me about where I am at, I do feel more understood. It was never my expectation or even my hope that those that read my blog would lose their faith or agree completely with every one of my conclusions. But I did hope that those that read would at least understand that my decisions were based on real issues, rather than based on the myths about why people lose their faith. I have had several believing members of the church say they have appreciated reading my blog specifically for the increased understanding on how difficult the process is for someone to lose their faith and/or stop attending church.
For those that read only parts of my blog or none at all, or who have not talked to me about my journey at all, for obvious reasons I do not feel understood. I am coming to realize that perhaps the majority of my active, believing LDS friends and family have not read every post, with some not reading any or very little. While I can understand why individuals would make that decision, it still leaves me feeling unheard and misunderstood. If you have not read my blog in its entirety, you do not understand me or my reasons for leaving. You will never understand those reasons without reading it all. I will not force anyone to read, particularly the disclaimer posts, as I realize these are extremely scary to have to think about. But without determining for yourself, through researching the original source material, you cannot come to an accurate conclusion about my choices. I am not saying you are pre-determined to believing the same way that I do, you may very well come to a different conclusion, but until you have researched the information that I have, you have based your faith on an incomplete set of information. And you have no real basis for judging me or my conclusions.
4. Be a Safe Place for Others that Doubt: This is a goal that I also believe was achieved. Since being open about my disbelief, I have had several previous members tell me that they no longer believe and have left the church. I have had several believing members approach me with specific issues and doubts. I have had several attending members tell me that they no longer believe or that they are significantly doubting. This last group is terrified of the possible repercussions. I find it interesting that even those that have approached me have often waited weeks or months to do so. I believe this is due to fear or shame. They fear what it might mean if they were to be more open about their disbelief. The possibilities are extremely scary, such as having a spouse leave them or family disown them. Due to this, later in this article I will ask for a very specific yet meaningful gesture from those believing members reading this.
But for now, I want to reiterate something I have said numerous times in these articles: If you have difficult questions or specific concerns, I am here for you. I have obviously come to a particular conclusion about the truth claims of the church, but those that have come to me know that I don’t have an agenda for anyone. I have specifically said to those that have approached me that, for some people, researching deeper or leaving the church may be the wrong decision for them. In the end I will answer any questions you have based on the knowledge that I have gained through my hundreds of hours of research (literally, that is not an exaggeration). If you are gay and don’t know what to do, I am here for you. If you have learned something disturbing about church history, I am here for you. If you have specific concerns about some aspect of the church doctrine or culture, I am here for you. And if you completely believe in the church and want to simply understand me, I am here for you too. No agenda. No preplanned end result. Just answers and support. No. Matter. What.
5. Dispel Myths of Why People Leave the Church: Again, for those that have read I do believe this goal was accomplished. To reiterate, both myself and many others that have decided to leave the church did not do so because we were lazy, had a desire to sin or were already sinning and lost the influence of the Spirit, were offended, or read lies about the church. It is quite the opposite. Those like me that have left have done so after many, many agonizing hours trying to make the church make sense in a faith promoting way. We wanted the church to be true. But we leave because we can no longer believe because specific information about the history and doctrine of the church has led us to this conclusion.
When I started writing, I used to need to prove to others that I had legitimate reasons for coming to the conclusion that the church was not true. Whether I was agreed with was irrelevant. I needed members to understand that I had legitimate concerns. I have come to realize that I cannot control anyone’s belief about me. I have let go of this expectation. I then needed to prove to myself, through writing this blog, that I had legitimate reasons. I no longer need to prove anything to myself. I know the reasons why I have made the decisions I have and I continue to believe very strongly that I have made correct ones. At this point forward, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
But I will say, I am open to any information that any member of the church believes would answer my questions. I have had several individuals send church articles to me, and I appreciate them reaching out. I have read every single thing that has been sent to me and I will continue to do so. I am often already familiar with the article that was sent (I have frequently already read it) but I always read them again. I am open to hearing any potential answer to difficult questions about the church. At this point, I can honestly say that I have not heard anything that has changed my mind about the truthfulness of the church. But I am open to hearing or reading any and all information that may challenge my conclusions.
I have heard from friends that just as much as I have worried that believing members of the church would judge me for leaving, believing members may worry that I will judge them for continuing to believe. I want to publicly say that I don’t judge you. I respect you and the reasons why you believe. I understand that you have had experiences that have been powerful for you, experiences that you can’t deny. I understand that you appreciate and love the community, teachings, and beliefs contained within the church. It makes sense to you. I honestly don’t believe you are stupid or naive for your belief. You are invested in the church. It is your everything. You have all the answers to all of life’s difficult or impossible questions. I get it. I used to feel exactly the same way. And I still feel a sense of loss at no longer having that feeling and surety. I completely understand your position as I used to be you. I accept you regardless of what you believe. Your faith is legitimate and valid. I hope that my change in faith is also seen as legitimate and valid as well.
Over the course of my faith transition, a lot has changed for me. I have discussed in past posts that when you go through a faith crisis and end in a faith transition, you have to re-evaluate everything you believe and why. As a result, I’m much more liberal than I used to be. I am much more accepting and supportive of different races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations. I definitely consider myself an ally. I drink coffee and alcohol on occasion. There, I said it. I believe in scientific findings on sexuality and sexual health based on research and evidence. I believe we have a responsibility to take care of the earth rather than wait for the Second Coming to make it all right again. I still don’t own guns but I do support increasing restrictions on gun ownership. While I’m sure these things will not ingratiate me with many members, I hope you respect my decisions. Again, if anyone ever wants to discuss any topic with me, I am honestly an open book. But I have reasons for every single change that has occurred. And I believe the vast majority of changes that have happened have made me into a better person, a better human, than I was before.
I want to reiterate something that I have said numerous times throughout these posts. I don’t hate the church. I don’t want to see it collapse and all the good it does be wasted. I want to see it improve. I appreciated Ryan’s comment in one of his posts where he admits he is a critic of the church but does not see it as a bad thing. He can be a critic of his favorite hockey team or TV show as well. Critics are those that point out the bad so that organizations can become better. “Burning your Martin Luthers makes you stagnant.” I believe that. For those that see the church, along with its leaders, as infallible and perfect, critics won’t be seen as helpful. But for those that realize the church isn’t perfect, and neither are its leaders, realize that those that speak out against certain practices are not only needed but extremely important.
For instance, there was a recent change to church policy where members that work with children are now required to take a brief training course on preventing abuse and what to do if it occurs. While I have concerns with the length and content of the training, it is definitely a step in the right direction. And this change, this improvement, would not have occurred without the efforts of Sam Young and the Protect LDS Children movement. The same Sam Young that was excommunicated for those efforts. Whether you agree with his approach or not, I believe it was due to the pressure he placed on the church that actually caused the change.
As I’ve already listed what I believe to be harmful about the church I will not rehash that now. But I will list what I wish members would do as a result of reading my blog.
1. For those that choose to stay because you fully believe: research. Not for the result of learning difficult information or to lose your faith but to learn accurate history. Read the Gospel Topics Essays on the official church website. Research the Fair Mormon website, which tries to answer the difficult questions that I have been talking about in a faith promoting way. Learn what it actually is that you believe. Reread my 16th post about the harmful aspects of the church and make a decision about any changes you want to make to protect not only yourself but your children. Live your religion, but be informed.
2. For those that choose to stay for the community and good teachings: choose what you follow. I have stated before that I find the current LDS version of tithing to be harmful. Rather than paying a full 10 percent, choose how much you pay. Or rather than pay tithing, pay a very generous fast offering, as these funds stay in the ward to help local members. If you have a problem with the church’s stance on the LGBTQ community, don’t subscribe to it. Accept everyone, don’t merely tolerate them. Attend every single interview in the church that your children have. If you want a drink ending in -ccino, have one. Watch Game of Thrones, it’s really good (except for the last season, don’t get me started…). Do what works for you.
3. For those that doubt or no longer believe and don’t know what to do: call me. Text, email, invite me to lunch, send me smoke signals for all I care. Don’t suffer through this alone. To beat a dead horse (or tapir, as it were) I honestly have no agenda for where you end up in your faith, but I will be an understanding ear and will help you figure it out.
Now on to my request. And when I make this appeal, I do it in complete seriousness. I hope that every active, believing member of the church that reads this article will publicly say that they will never shun, abandon, or leave a family member or friend that leaves the church. I want you to turn to your spouse, and if needed your adult or teenage children, your friends, really anyone that you believe may need to hear it, and say that no matter what their status with the church is, or what it may become in the future, that you will love them and stay with them regardless. My preference would be that this statement would be made public, whether on the blog itself, on my Facebook post, or even by making a Facebook (or other social media) post of your own, so that others will know you are a safe person to be open with if they were to ever doubt or stop believing. I personally know of several attending members that are either doubting or no longer believe. And they are terrified to tell their family and/or spouse. I know the feeling, so was I. Please. PLEASE. Do this thing for me. Or rather, do it for your loved ones.
To support this notion, I will quote the Bible, 1 Corinthians 7:12-13:
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
And here is an article that was published on the church website:
Here is my favorite quote from the article: “To me, the Savior embodies what it is to practice perfect love. He loved when it was uncomfortable, not reciprocated, and even ridiculed. A simple yet powerful commandment He told His disciples, one that He repeated three times over, ‘Love one another; as I have loved you.’ I am so glad this commandment didn’t include disclaimers. Can you imagine, ‘Love one another, except when someone does not believe or act as you do, then please disregard this commandment?’ It sounds absurd when it’s in this context, but when life gets real and loved ones disagree on personal matters, this simple but powerful statement can get lost in translation.”
As this is my last post, I would personally love to hear from anyone and everyone that has read these articles. Tell me about your reaction, whether positive or negative. Whether it has changed your perspective one way or another or whether you have hated this blog and are convinced it is anti-Mormon, I am completely open to your perspective. Even if you have never been Mormon and have discovered a morbid fascination with my blog or Mormonism in general, I would appreciate your input!
I will end this post and my contribution to this blog with two quotes. One is from a past leader within the church and the other from one of the founding members of modern philosophy.
“We must give up this idea too many of us have, that our way of life and living is not only the best, but often the only true way of life and living in the world, that we know what everybody else in the world should do and how they should do it. We must come to realize that every race and every people have their own way of doing things, their own standards of life, their own ideals, their own kinds of food and clothing and drink, their own concepts of civil obligation and honor, in their own views as to the kind of government they should have. It is simply ludicrous for us to try to recast all of these into our mold.”
– J. Reuben Clark, member of the First Presidency 1934-1961
“If you would be a real seeker after truth, you must at least once in your life doubt, as far as possible, all things.”